We all have a calling, and it is not only about our jobs, talents, or qualification.
Society and our Church often focusses only on the vocations of young people but every one of us matters to the Lord regardless of our age or status in life. We carry the need to discern our vocations with us all of our lives. In fact, our vocation can develop, grow, and change at any age. We may have been single most of our life and then realise that we are called to be married, or consecrated single, or enter religious life (although most religious orders have age restrictions) or the reverse of these may happen.
Personally, I do not think that there should be age limits placed on any vocation in life, as God’s calling is boundless. As long as we have the energy, discipline, and commitment to whatever it is we feel called to (and regardless of our wealth), why not follow whatever deep desires we feel in our hearts as long as we are in alignment with God’s will? There may be greater challenges, but we can still make a contribution with our experience, skills, talents, and time. Some of the best artists, musicians, writers, etc, in history found their deepest callings in older age. God called elderly people to do great things in Scripture, including bearing children in old age.
I am currently working through a program which focusses on discernment, callings, vocation, and decision-making. I am pursuing this after completing an eight-day Ignatian retreat online. These activities were found ‘by chance’ – a Godsend for me at a time of loneliness and depression. I feel that God is calling me to more, and while I do not yet know what that is or what it may look like, I hope that He will lead me to it soon. The soil of the soul is being cultivated slowly. The onus will be on me to take up the challenge and work through whatever God is putting upon my heart. The beauty of the challenge is in the seeking – like looking for gold in the mud.
Discernment is not easy. It requires us to dance with God, letting Him lead as the Master Dancer, while cooperating with and responding to His steps. If we do not pay attention to His lead, we can fall over and the dance is not as elegant and beautiful as it could be. While falling over is okay (because He patiently stretches His hand out to us, waits for us, and understands that we can have two left feet!) we also need to pick ourselves up and keep going. Sometimes we may also want to tell Him what the dance steps should be, and we let go in our frustration. In this contemplation I am reminded of the beautiful painting by Yongsung Kim called ‘A Pas de Deux’
I have used some of my time during my city’s continued lockdown to safeguard us all during this COVID-19 pandemic to find out what God truly wants for me, through developing a personal relationship with Him. I am sure that this is what He wants for all of us. But this cannot be done without proper formation. This can be hard for lay people who often do not have any or very little truthful guidance. How can we each have a relationship with God without understanding Who He is, who we are, what He wants from us, and what we want from Him? This requires proper Catholic instruction and expert spiritual guidance. Often the deep instruction we long for comes later on in life, and through personal experience, a crisis, or suffering.
Formation and direction of the laity is what is seriously lacking in many places today. I can cobble pieces of information together from the Internet, books, and various sources online if I know where to look, while also reading Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but how do I know, understand, and apply what I am reading to my life and circumstances? How do I fit the pieces of the puzzle together if I don’t understand the picture I am craving to see? Who do I ask if I feel confused, lost, or I have a question? How do I interpret and act upon the stirrings of my heart if I am alone in my journey and not part of a religious or active church community?
When I insert the word “discernment”, “vocation”, or “formation” into Google, I most often find articles about religious life and the priesthood only. There is very little for the laity of any age to do but gather bits and try to create something to instruct ourselves. Spiritual direction or a spiritual director can certainly help, but it is not easy for lay people to find a wise director, and many times they are too busy to see you (I know this from personal experience). Money to pay for spiritual direction can sometimes present a barrier for people. Life is not necessarily easy for the lay person in the world, and so we do what we can.
This is not an exercise in complaining, but one of awareness in seeking the Eternal Love and holiness we all long for, and what God wants for us. Our time is precious. He plants beautiful desires in our hearts and it is up to us to find them. To become better and persistent pursuers of the Truth we profess in our Creeds and prayers, we must never stop asking for proper, quality formation. I feel passionate that lay people are called to serve in the Lord’s vineyard too, and that we each have a yearning for holiness which must be nurtured – especially single people who often feel left out.
This pandemic and worldwide turmoil is a stripping away of what is false. It is also the great, albeit very painful, unveiler and must make all things new for God’s purposes alone. It has made me see that time must not be wasted, and that God is in control and wants to guide us back home to Him. We can, and need to, make better choices right now because we do not know when our life will end. This moment is a strong call to His Divine Mercy. Trust Him. He is good. He is loving. He is forgiving.
Christ is calling us to dance a beautiful Pas de Deux with Him all our lives. Will you take His outstretched Hand?